Friday, October 18, 2013

I Heart Kale

Kale, aka "the queen of greens," is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Here are just a few of the great health benefits that it has to offer courtesy of
1. Kale is low in calories, high in fiber, and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its high fiber content.

2. Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function, and more.

3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions, including normal bone health and the prevention of blood clotting. Also, increased levels of Vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, help protect against various cancers.

5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.

7. Kale is high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A is great for your vision and skin.  It also helps to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.

8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism, and your hydration.

9. Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis, and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful in maintaining cartilage and joint flexibility

10. Kale is a great detox food. Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.

We pretty much buy organic kale every week at the grocery store (it is on the dirty dozen, so organic really does make a difference). There are many delicious and easy ways to prepare it, so I really never get tired of it.

My absolute favorite way to prepare kale is to saute it with garlic and lemon juice.  I simply heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add in a couple cloves of minced garlic with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir for a minute or so, until the garlic becomes fragrant.  Add in kale (rinsed, stems removed, and chopped).  Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and stir until kale softens and turns bright green.  Top with a little sea salt and you are done!  I could really eat kale this way almost every day!

Another easy thing to do with kale is to bake it into chips.  Kale chips taste like really thin potato chips, and they are so good you will hardly even realize you are eating vegetables!  Just tear the leaves off the stems into bite-size pieces and spread out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle or spray with olive oil and sprinkle with a decent amount of salt.  You can also try adding some fresh Parmesan.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the edges are brown and the kale is crispy when moved in the pan.  Be careful not to overcook...I have learned the hard way that they can go from crispy to burnt in no time.  Eat the chips straight or drizzle on Sriracha or ketchup...whatever floats your boat!

A third way that we eat kale is in salad form.  To make it easy, I often buy prepackaged organic baby kale at the store.  It is more tender than regular kale and has a similar consistency to baby spinach.  
You can use other varieties of kale in salads, but some of them will be tougher and chewier than others.  Massaging the leaves, using a citrus-y dressing, and/or allowing the leaves to marinate for a bit are all things you can do to help soften up raw kale.  This BuzzFeed article lists seven helpful tips to making a better kale salad, so that the inside of your mouth doesn't "feel like it is being assaulted by a giant tree."  (I laughed out loud when I read that!)  They also share links to some delicious sounding recipes that I can't wait to try!   

Lastly, kale is great in soups!  There are tons of recipes on the net.  I am still enjoying leftovers of my squash, sweet potato, kale, and white bean soup that I made the other night.  If the weather doesn't warm up here soon, I'm going to be making soups every night!  Brrr!
Happy Friday!

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